The Xbox One is making a new play for the living room.
Microsoft, at a press conference preceding the 2015 GamesCom conference in Cologne, Germany, announced that it will add subscription-free DVR functionality to its video game system in 2016.
It’s a move that could make the Xbox One, which has fallen short of the sales of Sony’s PlayStation 4, more desirable to people thinking of getting rid of their older game systems—and could make it more interesting to people who weren’t thinking of getting a game system at all.
“Microsoft has slowly but surely been improving the value proposition on Xbox One—and this is one more thing that will attract the attention of people who are looking into upgrading,” says John Taylor, managing director of Arcadia Investment Corp. “It seems to me that Microsoft is taking one more step into turning the Xbox into a truly versatile entertainment device rather than just a game platform.”
That’s not unfamiliar territory for Microsoft (MSFT). The company’s last generation system—the Xbox 360—was the first console to include Netflix streaming, offering the service for a full year before Sony (SNE) and Nintendo (NTDOY) made it available. That window gave the 360 a big sales boost—and made it clear that the system was made for more than games.
The ability to record television shows to the console is unique to Microsoft’s device. Many fans have speculated about the possibility of this since the Xbox One’s introduction showcased the system’s ability to act as a pass-through for cable and satellite boxes. (Players can watch TV through their Xbox—and receive notifications when friends want to play games—or watch TV in a picture-in-picture-like window as they play a game.)
Nintendo and Sony are unlikely to follow suit. The Wii U, while it does have a television pass-through, simply doesn’t have an installed user base to make the investment worthwhile—and Nintendo’s focus remains squarely on games. The PlayStation 4, meanwhile, is in a dominant leadership position in the industry and has no incentive to offer this feature, nor is it possible, at present, to watch TV of any sort through the system.
Once the update is released next year, Xbox One owners will be able to schedule recordings on the go and transfer recorded shows to any device running Windows 10 or the Xbox SmartGlass app on iOS and Android. Shows can also be downloaded to Windows 10 smartphones, PCs, or tablets, to be watched without an Internet connection.
Recording of programs occurs in the background, said Mike Ybarra, head of platform engineering at Microsoft, and will not impact gameplay performance.
Recordings to the Xbox One will never expire—and the system’s recording capacity will be determined by the size of the hard drive. (Microsoft recommends that users attach an external hard drive—leaving the Xbox One’s main drive free for games.)
The one catch? If you’re hoping to record Game of Thrones or any other cable show, the Xbox won’t be able to help you. DVR functionality, initially at least, will be limited to over the air television, Microsoft clarified in a blog post.
Still, analysts say, it’s a notable step by Microsoft that could help the company guide consumer behavior moving forward.
“It’s about controlling the consumer experience, wherever they are,” says P.J. McNealy, founder and CEO of Digital World Research.